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James Webb Space Telescope Expands Tower Assembly to Make Way for Deployed Sunshade

By on December 29, 2021 0

The James Webb Space Telescope takes one step closer to the end of its massive sun visor deployment.

On Wednesday (December 29), the massive new space observatory successfully extended its Deployable Tower Assembly (DTA), a 48-inch-long (1.2 meter) shaft that connects the two halves of the telescope, officials said. from NASA in a press release.

The James Webb Space Telescope’s DTA creates the necessary space between the part of the telescope that houses its huge mirror and scientific instruments and the spacecraft’s bus, which houses its electronics and propulsion systems.

“This creates a sufficient distance for mirrors and sensitive instruments to cool to the temperatures necessary to detect infrared light,” NASA said in the statement. “This space will also allow the sunshade membranes to fully deploy.”

Live updates: NASA James Webb Space Telescope Mission
In picture: The Christmas launch of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope

NASA engineers began sending commands to the Webb Telescope to begin extending the DTA around 9.45 a.m. EST (2.45 p.m. GMT) on Wednesday. The entire process took six hours and 39 minutes and ended at 4:24 p.m. EST (2124 GMT), NASA said in the statement.

The James Webb Space Telescope was launched on December 25 and is currently making a 29-day trip to its destination: a gravitationally stable point 1.5 million kilometers from Earth, known as Lagrange Point 2, or L2. It started deploying its massive sun visor on Tuesday (December 28), a process expected to take around five days.

The five-layered lens hood will help keep Webb’s instruments and optics cool, a necessity for the observatory, which is optimized to see the cosmos in infrared light.

With the DTA now fully deployed, Webb’s next steps will be to release the sun visor cover and rear swing flap, which will “help offset some of the solar pressure hitting the large sun visor.” NASA said in a description of the deployment process. . Webb is expected to complete both of these stages on Thursday (December 30), after which he can start deploying his sunshade on Friday (December 31).

Email Hanneke Weitering at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @hannekescience. Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.